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Smog is a fog containing atmospheric air pollutants. Poland is in the lead of the most polluted countries in the European Union. In our country, we breathe very bad air, and over 48,000 people die prematurely every year. Check how smog is created, what is its impact on he alth and which cities in Poland are the most carcinogenic.

Smog(smoke "smoke") is a fog containing air pollutants. These are mainly dusts and gases from coal combustion in furnaces, car exhaust fumes, and industrial plants. Due to the place, conditions of formation and chemical composition, there are two types of smog: classic smog (London smog) and photochemical smog (Los Angeles type).

Classic smog is otherwise acid smog or London smog. It occurs mainly from November to February in temperate climatic zones - in regions where houses are heated by burning coal and other solid fuels.

In turn,photochemical smog(oxidizing smog) is formed mainly in the summer months. It usually hovers on sunny days, when the air temperature is high (between 25 and 35 ° C) and the streets are busy. Photochemical smog is observed in many cities around the world, e.g. Santiago (Chile), Caracas (Venezuela), Mexico (Mexico), Athens (Greece), Beijing (China), Tokyo (Japan), Rome (Italy), Poland ( e.g. Krakow).


  1. Smog - how is it created? The causes of smog
  2. Smog - smog composition
  3. Smog - air quality scale
  4. Smog - cities with the most smog
  5. Smog - the impact of smog on he alth
  6. How many cigarettes do you "smoke" by breathing polluted air?
  7. Smog - impact on children's he alth
  8. Smog in Poland kills even 45 thousand people every year people

Smog - how is it created? The causes of smog

The main source of acid smog are heating installations (boilers, stoves) used to heat single-family houses and old tenement houses. This is for several reasons:1

  • common use of solid fuel boilers and stoves in single- and multi-family houses. This method of heating is used in over 49%. Polish households
  • use of old type installations, the so-calledsoot (or rubbish), i.e. furnaces or boilers of upper combustion, in which it is possible to burn practically everything that you throw into them

IMPORTANT! The Małopolska Sejmik unanimously adopted the anti-smog glory, which assumes that from July 1, 2022, only solid fuel heating stoves that meet the highest emission standards will be installed in new homes in the entire region. Old boilers must be replaced by 2023

  • unskillful use of upper combustion boilers, which produces large amounts of smoke containing air pollutants
  • use of low-quality fuels. The lower the quality of the coal, the less you have to pay for it. The price of coal sludge - a wet mixture of coal and rock, which is essentially waste from the coal cleaning process - is twice as low as eco-pea coal. This is enough to make such fuel very popular. Meanwhile, coal sludge has a very high ash content, which results in increased dust emission, and at the same time leads to the destruction of the heating system. Worse, it is also a source of heavy metals, most notably mercury
  • burning with waste - in this way Poles get rid of up to 2 million tons of waste per year. The waste that ends up in the furnace is more harmful than any fuel - its combustion produces, among others, toxic dioxins, furans, hydrogen cyanide

Road transport also has a significant impact on the formation of acid smog. Contrary to popular opinion, the share of industry in air pollution is small, even if we add pollution generated by the power industry (electricity and heat production in power plants and combined heat and power plants) to the emissions from production processes.

In turn, the source of photochemical smog are mainly car exhaust fumes, which react with sunlight, resulting in the formation of poisonous substances.

GOOD TO KNOW: Home without smog

Acid smog is mainly caused (in over 80%) by households (heating houses). To a lesser extent, transport (cars), industry and agriculture. The persistence of smog is favored by windless, high weather, as well as depressions of the terrain.

Smog - smog composition

Due to their prevalence and harmfulness, special attention is paid to the following atmospheric pollutants:1

  • Dusts, including PM10 and PM2.5 - dusts do not constitute a homogeneous group of substances. These can be particles of dust, ash, soot and sand, as well as pollen and even rubbedtires, discs and brake pads for cars. Other substances (e.g. heavy metals) often settle on the surface of such particles, which can then penetrate into the body along with the inhaled air.

PM10 dust is dust whose particles are 10 microns in diameter or less (for comparison, the thickness of a human hair is 50-90 microns). Such dust easily penetrates the upper respiratory tract and lungs. PM2.5 is dust with particles 2.5 microns or less. PM2.5 is often formed by toxic substances - incl. heavy metal compounds or volatile organic compounds. PM2.5 is more dangerous to your he alth than PM10 - smaller particles go all the way to the alveoli and from there they can pass into the blood.

  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), includingbenzo (a) pyrene- these are substances formed as a result of incomplete combustion of organic compounds, e.g. wood, garbage or car fuels, and also plastics. One of them is benzo (a) pyrene, which is accumulated in the body and has carcinogenic properties

Acid smog mainly contains sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and dust. Photochemical smog is smog, the main components of which are chemically active organic compounds (peroxides, aldehydes) as well as ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides.

  • nitrogen oxides - is a group of inorganic chemical compounds, the most common of which are nitrogen oxide and dioxide in the air. The exhaust gas from road transport has the greatest impact on nitrogen oxide emissions
  • sulfur oxides - it is an inorganic chemical compound formed, among others as a result of burning fossil fuels. It dissolves easily in water, resulting in acid rain that destroys vegetation and buildings and causes corrosion of metals
  • heavy metals, incl. cadmium, mercury, lead - are released into the atmosphere as a result of burning this fuel. All three metals can cause acute body poisoning, but also accumulate, resulting in chronic poisoning
  • carbon monoxide - is produced by burning fossil fuels, as well as biomass. Its toxicity is due to its ability to bind to hemoglobin, which is greater than oxygen, and as a result it displaces oxygen from the bloodstream
  • ozone - is one of the forms of oxygen. It is not emitted directly into the atmosphere, but is formed as a result of the reaction of other pollutants

Smog - air quality scale. What are the air quality standards

Air quality levelPM10 [µg / m3]PM2.5 [µg / m3]
Very good0-200-12
Very angry>200 >120


  • very good - air quality is very good, air pollution does not pose a threat to he alth, conditions are very favorable for any outdoor activities, no restrictions
  • good - air quality is satisfactory, air pollution causes little or no risk to he alth. You can stay in the open air and do any activity, without restrictions
  • moderate - air quality is acceptable. Air pollution can pose a he alth risk in special cases (for the sick, the elderly, pregnant women and young children). Moderate conditions to outdoor activities
  • sufficient - air quality is sufficient, air pollution is a he alth hazard (especially for the sick, the elderly, pregnant women and young children) and may have negative he alth effects. Consider limiting (shortening or spreading over time) your outdoor activities, especially if the activity involves prolonged or increased physical exertion
  • bad - the air quality is bad, the sick, the elderly, pregnant women and young children should avoid being outdoors. The remaining population should minimize any physical activity in the open air - especially those requiring prolonged or increased physical effort
  • very bad - the air quality is very bad and has a negative effect on he alth. Sick people, the elderly, pregnant women and young children should absolutely avoid being outdoors. Remaining population should limit outdoor activities to the necessary minimum. Any physical activity outside is discouraged. Long-term exposure to airborne substances increases the risk of changes, e.g. in the respiratory, cardiovascular and immune systems

According to the ordinance of the Minister of the Environment of 24 August 2012 on the levels of certain substances in the air, the permissible average daily standard for PM10 airborne dust emission is 50 micrograms per cubic meter.7 The threshold of 200 micrograms per cubic meter is exceeded.must be made public, but exceeding 300 micrograms per cubic meter is an alert state when you should try to limit outdoor activities.The air quality index lists six degrees: at concentrations below 20 micrograms, the quality is very good, between 21 and 60 micrograms - good, 61-100 micrograms - moderate, 101-140 micrograms - fair, 141-200 micrograms - bad, and over 200 - very bad. Exceeding 300 micrograms of dust per m3means smog alarm.

Smog - cities with the most smog


Smog - the impact of smog on he alth

In he althy people, even a short-term contact with smog causes: inflammation, irritation of the conjunctiva, larynx and trachea, mild, transient inflammation of the lungs, fatigue, decreased exercise tolerance. In turn, patients with asthma and COPD exacerbate these diseases, often with fatal outcome.3

However, many years of contact with air pollution may lead to the development of malignant neoplasms, such as:

  • lung cancer
  • sinus cancer
  • cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus
  • kidney cancer

According to WHO, air pollution in 30 percent. is responsible for the formation of neoplasms.

Another effect of long-term exposure to smog is the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Currently, at least 40 percent. COPD patients do not have major risk factors, such as smoking or genetic burden. Air pollution is most likely the cause of disease in these patients.

Smog is especially dangerous for children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with respiratory diseases and allergies.

Particulate matter, mainly PM2.5, has the ability to pass through the alveolar walls and first to the pulmonary vessels, then to the entire circulatory system, contributing significantly to the development of:

  • ischemic heart disease
  • hypertension
  • arrhythmias

They also aggravate heart failure and can lead to sudden cardiac death. People most at risk from the adverse effects of particulate matter are patients already suffering from coronary heart disease, the elderly (over 65), women, obese people, people suffering from diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, and smokers.

Smog also contributes to faster aging of the nervous system, and evenincreases the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, researchers in Ontario, Canada, argue.4They set out to investigate the impact of high-traffic roads on the incidence of dementia, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis (MS) among people, who live right next to the road or near it. Over 6 million Canadian adult citizens (aged 20-85) who had not been diagnosed with any of these diseases 5 years before the start of the study participated in the test. Their he alth status was monitored for 11 years (from 2001 to 2012). Researchers did not see any link between living near the highway or other high-traffic road and the risk of developing Parkinson's disease and MS. However, it turned out that people living 50 meters from the road with heavy traffic had 7 percent. higher risk of developing dementia. The risk increase was 4%. in people living 50 to 100 meters from a busy road and up to 2 percent. in people living between 101 and 200 meters from the expressway. At greater distances, no evidence of disease association was found. According to the researchers, the results are related to air pollution - long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine dust particles.

The substances contained in smog are compounds that can also cause fertility problems, allergies, and liver disorders.

Worth knowing

How many cigarettes do you "smoke" breathing polluted air?

Every person inhaling the poisonous bezno (a) pyrene may feel like a smoker. The inhabitant of Zakopane is in the worst situation, breathing polluted air for an average of two hours a day, smoking almost 12 cigarettes a day, and annually the equivalent of over 4,000. cigarettes. In other cities, the situation is not better.

Zakopane - 4,291 cigarettes a year (11.8 cigarettes a day) Krakow - 3,706 cigarettes a year (10.1 cigarettes a day) Lodz - 3,037 cigarettes a year (about 8.3 cigarettes a day) Katowice - 2,545 cigarettes a year (7 cigarettes a day) Poznań - 2,411 cigarettes a year (6.6 cigarettes a day) Wrocław - 1,652 cigarettes a year (4.5 cigarettes a day) Bydgoszcz - 1,473 cigarettes a year (4 cigarettes a day) Warsaw - 1,295 cigarettes a year (3.5 cigarettes a day) Gdańsk - 669 cigarettes a year (1.8 cigarettes a day) Lublin - 937 cigarettes a year (2.6 cigarettes a day)

The amount of benzo (a) pyrene (a carcinogen also present in cigarettes) that you inhale when you stay outside for 2 hours a day, all year round, in terms of cigarettes. Source: Cigarette calculator,

Smog - impact on he althchildren

Air pollution has a particularly negative effect on the he alth of children, already in the prenatal period. They can cause birth defects, deterioration of parameters such as weight, body length, and the circumference of the head. These substances are likely to impair placental blood flow, and as a result, the fetus grows more slowly. Consequently, after birth, the baby's cognitive, language and motor skills are worse in the first years after birth than they would have achieved if the air quality had been better. They have a worse intellectual development potential, and in the future they may achieve worse results at school, have problems with concentration or functioning in a group of peers. In addition, it has been noticed that preschool children living in polluted areas are more likely to develop upper respiratory tract infections than older children or middle-aged adults.

Children are most vulnerable to the negative effects of breathing polluted air. This is for a number of reasons. First, children's respiratory systems are still immature, and their airways are narrow and short, making them more susceptible to irritation and inflammation. In addition, children breathe faster than adults, and in addition, pollutants accumulate closer to the ground, which is why children inhale proportionally more of it. It is also important that a large percentage of babies breathe through the mouth, and not through the nose, which is able to catch more pollutants.5

Smog in Poland kills even 45 thousand people every year people

The World He alth Organization has estimated that approximately 3 million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. Each year in our country, as many as 45,000 people die prematurely in our country, which is a small city.

More detailed data can be found in the report "The impact of the atmospheric environment on human he alth", commissioned by the University of Wrocław, which is implementing the "Life Apis" project.4The authors of the study are experts specializing in in the issue of the impact of air quality on he alth - Krzysztof Skotak and Łukasz Adamkiewicz. They examined 14 communes which cover about 40 percent. inhabitants of Lower Silesia. They examined 14 communes, which cover about 40 percent. inhabitants of Lower Silesia. It turns out that in all municipalities as much as 13 percent. deaths in 2008-2015 were related to the poor condition of the air. Most in Nowa Ruda, almost 20 percent. In Wrocław, it is almost 15 percent. This means that almost a thousand people in the region's capital die due to the effects of smog. InIn Wałbrzych it is 260 people, in Legnica - almost 150, and in Jelenia Góra - almost 100. In all analyzed communes, in 2015 alone, about 3 thousand people died prematurely due to air pollution. people.

Source: press materials of the campaign organizers We create the atmosphere

Worth knowing

How to check the current state of air pollution?

Current measurement data can be found on the website of the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection. The Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection has also launched an application for mobile phones "Air quality in Poland", which provides up-to-date information on pollutant concentrations and up-to-date measurement results.

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